What makes native landscaping interesting?
Why are non-native plants bad?
How many plants are there to choose from for our area?
What are some of your favorite natives for our area?
Don't Native Plants go dormant and look dead in the dry season?
Can my backyard become a self-sustaining eco-system?
Do I still need to water my landscape if I use native plants?
What kind of irrigation system do you suggest?
Will native landscaping lower the amount of pests in my garden?
What environmental benefits are there to planting native plants?
Are there financial benefits to using native plants in a landscape?
Q: What makes native landscaping interesting?
Locally native plants are beautiful. They attract butterflies and birds. They can help you save water, eliminate the need for harmful pesticides and fertilizers, and reduce maintenance needs. A native plant landscape will save you money and help the environment.
Q: Why are non-native plants bad?
Invasive non-native organisms are one of the greatest threats to the natural ecosystems of the U.S. and are destroying America's natural history and identity. These unwelcome plants, insects and other organisms are disrupting the ecology of natural ecosystems, displacing native plant and animal species, and degrading our nation's unique and diverse biological resources. Aggressive invaders reduce the amount of light, water, nutrients and space available to native species, alter hydrological patterns, soil chemistry, moisture-holding capacity, and erodibility, and change fire regimes. Some exotics are capable of hybridizing with native plant relatives, resulting in unnatural changes to a plant's genetic makeup; others have been found to harbor plant pathogens that can affect both native and non-native plants. Still others contain toxins that may be lethal to certain animals. For more info, click HERE.
Q: How many plants are there to choose from for our area?
With over 806 species of native plant species in Orange County and over 5000 in California, the choices are almost endless! Back to Natives Restoration encourages the use of ‘locally native’ species. Many of the 5,000 species in California are endemic (not found anywhere else in the world) to a very small range within California. They could become invasive if planted in the wrong part of California! HERE is an example of that happening.
Q: What are some of your favorite natives for our area?
California Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is a host plant for twelve different species of native butterflies. It also provides excellent coverage and nectar for pollinators. Woolly Blue Curls (Trichostema lanatum) is a great nectar plant that smells just like Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum when the leaves are crushed; Blue Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) a miniature Iris (not a grass at all), that does well as a border plant, a small herb specimen, and as a houseplant in a pot!
Q: Don't Native Plants go dormant and look dead in the dry season?
In Orange County, some people look at the hills and say, ‘there, that is why I don’t like native plants, they all die and look brown.’ However what they are looking at are fields and hills covered in non-native invasive species such as Black Mustard (Brassica nigra) an annual that dies after only a few weeks leaving a dead brown fire prone landscape! Non-native mustards and many types of non-native annual grasses increase the ambient temperature contributing to the heat island effect even in open space areas preventing native plants from re-colonizing. If you look past the hills to the Santa Ana Mountains, or to the Coastal Reserves such as Crystal Cove State Park, Laguna Coast Wilderness and parts of the Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park, you will see that native plants, though some do go dormant, for the most part stay green or grey all year long with very little water or care. Any plant that is prevented from having water will go dormant to some degree to avoid dying. Back to Natives Restoration is a landscape designer and contractor, License # 963706, which uses locally native species. Through these services BTN raises awareness of Native Plants, and much needed funds for our many habitat restoration and environmental education projects. All funds raised through design, sales, installation and maintenance of native plants go directly to supporting our mission: "To encourage and actively participate in the restoration and conservation of Orange County and California wildlands, through education and restoration programs featuring native plants and biodiversity as a centralizing theme."
Q: Can my backyard become a self-sustaining eco-system?
Over the course of time, if you planted appropriately with plants from the same plant community that are associated with your soil type around your location, you can have a healthy, happy and beautiful micro-system right in your backyard (or front yard!). Don’t forget annual wildflowers though! They provide much needed nutrients for many of our native plants. Allow your trees and shrubs to make their own mulch. Keep things tidy and neat, but don’t remove essential nutrients and weed barriers like leaf litter that also provide much needed habitat for our Native Bumble Bees to make their solitary homes with their life-long mates.
Q: Do I still need to water my landscape if I use native plants?
Locally native plants in California have existed here for millennia without the assistance of humans to prune, shape, maintain or water them. Having said that, 10,000 years ago the local community did not have an HOA with strict guidelines and opinios on what is an eyesore. To keep your natives green and flowering, a little watering throughout the year will appease your neighbors and HOA and help them appreciate the finer points of native gardening. Irrigation systems can be turned off through much of the rainy season, and then set for once a month for a few minutes, or once per week for 3-5 minutes during the summer heat. The best time to water is from 5:30AM to 7:30AM before the heat of the day, just as the plants are starting to uptake water in anticipation of photosynthesizing.
Q: What kind of irrigation system do you suggest?
Native plants do not like overhead watering. BTN encourages the modification of current systems by attaching flex hose and micro-emitters, one for each shrub, that have a flow rate of 0-30 GPH (gallons per hour). This greatly reduces water loss through evaporation from overhead spray. Overspray can also cause or lead to non-point source pollution. Drip does not work effectively. Because it only keeps the surface soil moist, not penetrating down to the roots, it can lead to unhealthy and shallow root growth and possibly root crown rot. Micro-emitters, which are essentially micro-bubblers, are the best way to apply water where it is needed, when it is needed. The best time to water is from 5:30AM to 7:30AM before the heat of the day, just as the plants are starting to uptake water in anticipation of photosynthesizing.
Q: Will native landscaping reduce the amount of pests in my garden?
This is a loaded question, as people do not necessarily agree on what a pest is. Many think that anything that eats plants is bad. Caterpillars eat the leaves of their specific host plants, but most people like the butterflies that they become. Many think that we must spray chemicals on all flying or creeping things in our gardens, but this harms birds by poisoning their food source. Eventually a balance will be found once native plants are installed and chemicals are removed. There may be a small invasion of aphids and scale with any new planting, but if we remove the chemicals applied to our landscapes, beneficial insects and gleaning (insect eating) birds will help to remove these pests or keep them in check. A population of what many consider to be "pests" must be allowed to exist in order to support the life cycle of the insects and bugs that we have come to appreciate as beneficial. Norwegian rats do NOT like native landscapes!
Q: What environmental benefits are there to planting native plants?
Reduce water use: Native plants are adapted to the "poor" California soils around our homes. Using locally native species associated with the soil types around our homes helps us reduce the use of water. Native landscapes use less than ten percent of the water of a commercial landscape or lawn. Water is pumped in from Northern California just so we can spray it all over our lawns and watch as it runs down the sidewalk and into the flood channel. With Native landscapes, the irrigation is modified to prevent runoff, eliminate overspray and prevent non-point source pollution saving over 90% of the water that would otherwise be used to keep our non-native lawns unnaturally green!
Reduce chemical use: Natives also help us reduce the use of petroleum based chemicals in our gardens, which are detrimental to our health, as well as to many of our native species of butterflies and birds. Removing the use of pesticides decreases our environmental exposure to many chemicals known or suspected to cause cancers and other ailments and prevents non-point source pollution in our water ways. Landscape chemicals can also cause algal blooms in our local water ways. Algal blooms absorb oxygen in the water as they decompose, causing mass fish kills or destroying sensitive aquatic habitats that support our great fisheries which we rely on for food!
Q: Are there financial benefits to using native plants in a landscape?
Native landscapes use less than ten percent of the water of a commercial landscape or lawn. Native landscapes do not require the use of expensive chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Pesticides kill the native butterflies and birds we want in our gardens. Fertilizers harm native plants which do not appreciate the rich soils commercial nursery plants require. Maintenance of a native landscape is usually less labor intensive, and therefore less expensive, as well. It usually includes the training of vines to a trellis, the removal of spent flower/seed stalks, and the raking of native bunch grasses (don't trim them!) to remove dead leaves. Time saved on maintenance can then be spent enjoying the garden, including the plethora of butterflies and native birds that will call your landscape home!